In the course of my work i encounter many many people. All walks of life, all ages, races and religions. Some of these are your average pleasant examples whilst more often they are sadly the opposite. Whatever the person you meet there are occasionally those who for some reason or another stay firmly lodged in your memory. Up until now it has been my misfortune for all of those of my experience to be of a negative nature rather than a pleasantly positive.
Recently all of that changed when i had a conversation with an elderly man. To begin with he won me over with his lovely chirpy greeting and after a morning of exceptionally rude people he was definitely a balm to my downcast mood. They say that you can hear in the voice when a person is smiling and of this gentleman this was certainly true. Smiling he most definitely was.
Faintly Welsh with that singsong lilt to his voice he replied that as the sun was shining he was very well indeed and asked after myself in return. ‘My Lovely’ he called me and that in itself made me smile for it was nice to hear after a particularly harsh day. I explained the purpose of my call and he listened intently before pausing for a moment after i finished speaking. then he began to chuckle and i was taken aback as he announced that he would be glad to help but he really did not see the point for he was not long for this world. ”I’m dying you see” he told me quite nonchalantly. Like any empathetic person i was horrified and apologised profusely, condolences rushing forth although i wasn’t really sure any of them were enough to befit the situation. Startlingly he dismissed my words with another chuckle and told me that he was ready to go.
”I’ve lived my life you see” he told me ”I’ve lived a very happy life, had a wonderful wife who is waiting up there for me to join her”
Then he began to talk. He told me of his life and his time in the second world war. That he found in me a willing audience there seemed to please him greatly and we talked for some time as he told me of his time as ground crew personnel. Scoffing genially at me as i enthused my love of the B-17, telling me firmly that there was nothing to hold a candle to the good old Spitfire. As he talked he never changed, that same chirpy happy nature shone through and despite his bombshell i found myself smiling too, very much warming to this old man i had never met and he did seem to be genuinely happy.
Smiling still he told me of his wife, clearly from the gentle affectionate way he spoke of her it seemed he really did love her. That he was looking forward to seeing her again in whatever place exists after passing touched me and made me smile. No clearly this lovely old man had lived a happy life, this much was evident from the way he spoke. He stuck in my memory for his charm and his friendly nature and his gentle acceptance of his lot and i wondered if in my own turn i should feel the same.
I have always been a big believer in trying to do the best we can with the life we have for we really do only get one try at it. There is no ‘return to go’ for those who make mistakes and get it wrong no matter how much we should wish it. Although many years hopefully yet to go i couldnt help but hope that i should be able to say the same as this lovely man, that my mistakes however many were still nothing compared to the happy parts of the life i managed to have. I have to admit a relief that my time is not yet up for i have not yet reached that place where i can look back and say i have led a happy life. My mistakes are many and i am not so very good at getting things right. Yet there are those things, however few, that definitely make all of the difference and i can truly say i feel i got right. It is so very hard to realise just when something is worth counting and when it is of no consequence at all but just sometimes there are things you just know you have to count. Regrets will follow when you realise you should have counted something that you didnt or in hindsight put too much stock in that mattered not at all.
It is all a question of balance and doing for yourself those things that will make you look back and say you led a happy life. Perhaps you may not have started out that way but the world is full of choices and it is up to us to choose the path to the right memories. For myself i shall remember that lovely old man whom i met only briefly but who made me smile on a very bad day and who gave me faith that if you stay true to yourself and what you believe you really do have the potential to be happy.
Wherever you are sir i wish you and your wife a most happy ever after.